The latest Best Value indicators for local councils show overall performance at 80% with a steadily improving trend. But customer satisfaction surveys, the ultimate test of performance, show a satisfaction rate of 65%. This result, based on the first ever Best Value customer surveys of people in all council areas in the country, quantifies the concerns of managers across the public sector. The alarm bells for customer satisfaction started to ring last year when a survey showed that while public service managers believed services had improved, the general public did not recognize any change.The wide gulf between organizational performance and customer satisfaction can be partly explained by the findings of mystery shoppers testing out different public services. Half of callers to the Driver Vehicle Agency took three attempts to get through, while one third of callers to the Highways Agency received inadequate information about roadworks. Calls to the Benefits Agency failed to produce the wanted information leaflet.
Customer relationship management is seen as the response to the issue of customer satisfaction. The Office of the e-Envoy has urged central departments to re-engineer services around the needs of citizens and business users and asked them to demonstrate that customer consultation and segmentation strategies are driving the services they provide. The OeE has developed a customer segmentation toolkit that will help identify customers and provide a way of finding out which services customers would like to see provided.
The Inland Revenue is playing a leading role in moving to a customer focus with the appointment last year of a Marketing and Communication Director. As part of its customer relation management strategy it is finding out the different perceptions and different needs of its customers by breaking them down into different groups such as large business, small business, students and self-employed people.